Life insurance

21 December 2016

Challenging non-testamentary designations

Much of the “action” in probate litigation these days does not involve challenges to testamentary dispositions.  Instead, I see more of a trend in my practice of challenges to beneficiary designations.  Those include designations for: life insurance accidental death insurance bank accounts investment accounts 401k accounts IRA accounts certificates of deposit ERISA accounts Typically, a letter to an institution asserting a challenge will be sufficient to put payment in suspense.  That will lead to a period of opportunity for negotiation and, failing that, an interpleader suit.  I have encountered a few situations where a financial institution, usually a brokerage, will demand […]
11 May 2016

Mind your QDRO

I routinely handle life insurance beneficiary disputes. As I mentioned in a previous post, the first issue I analyze is whether the life insurance policy is governed by state law or by a federal law known as ERISA. Many ERISA policy disputes involve claims by former spouses to life insurance benefits.  Many states bar former spouses from receiving life insurance benefits if the designation was  made prior to the divorce. But such state laws are generally superseded by ERISA.  Often there is a claim that the former spouse waived their beneficiary status in the divorce decree.  A state divorce decree judgment […]
10 December 2015

Determining if a life insurance policy is governed by ERISA

One of the first questions I ask a potential client with a life insurance dispute is whether or not the insured obtained the policy through their employer.  This helps me determine whether state or federal law applies to the dispute. This is crucial because the particular federal law that governs employee benefits, ERISA, preempts most state law rights and remedies. It also generally determines the forum where the dispute will be heard and if a jury will be involved in deciding the case. ERISA typically applies when an employee obtains life insurance through an employer, even when the employer may […]
2 January 2013

Happy 2013

Texas Probate Litigation will be five years old in March.  While I understand that estate, trust, and life insurance disputes are not topics that make for compelling reading for the average (sane) person, for those needing help in such situations, obtaining information is very important. In 2012, I had the pleasure of representing some very fine people in need of help. From all the way down in Colombia, to Houston, Austin, Waco, Dallas, Fort Worth, and all the way up to Minnesota.  Most of their cases were resolved during the discovery stage, with one will contest settled just before trial. If 2012 was different […]
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